The Nigerian Army has arrested a herdsman caught with an AK-47 rifle and ammunition at Adagu village in Guma Local Government Area (LGA) of Benue State.
Commanding Officer, 72 Special Forces Battalion, Makurdi, Colonel Suleiman Mohammed, paraded the suspect on Wednesday before the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, and a team of senior officers in the state capital.
He said the suspect, who is identified as Idi Gemu from Adudu village of Obi LGA of Nasarawa State, was apprehended as part of the military’s resolve to rid Benue of criminals.
Colonel Mohammed revealed that there was a connection between the sponsors of the suspect and that of the three other herdsmen paraded by the Army in the state last week.
In an interview with reporters, the suspect denied having any link with the other suspects arrested by the military.
He said he had left Adudu village to find his missing sheep in Torkula Adagu village before he ran into another herdsman whom he claimed owns the AK-47 rifle.
Police have confirmed the existence of armed militia groups in Benue State which they said investigations would reveal soon.
Speaking on Thursday during an interview on Channels Television, the Force Public Relations Officer, Mr Jimoh Moshood, countered claims by Governor Samuel Ortom that there was nothing of such.
“Yes, they were armed with AK-47 (riffles); we have records, we have footage and you can’t just start arming people,” he said when he appeared on Sunrise Daily.
“There are a lot of militia groups equally in Benue and we are looking at all those areas to ensure that the actual perpetrators of this mayhem are promptly arrested.
“People who are supposed to ensure that when they observe (you say you have a guard) and report back to the police that would probably do the appropriate thing; if such a guard is armed with AK-47 rifle, how do you control that, how do you prevent such AK-47 (riffle) from going into wrong hands?” Moshood questioned.
He also disputed claims that the ranch guards who were inaugurated by the state government were unarmed, insisting that the police have their evidence.
The Force spokesman noted that it was unlawful for any person to be in possession of arm without the consent of the Federal Government.
He added that the said ranch guards were meant to take note of any suspicious activity and report to the police, stressing that investigations had revealed that they were carrying prohibited weapons.
On Ortom’s claims, Moshood said: “Yes, I’m disputing that because we have evidence that they were armed with AK-47 rifles.”
“It is equally important for people to know that we are investigating that, we must know the source of these AK-47 rifles.
“Any organisation that you are setting up before you can carry firearms must be approved by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and it shouldn’t be a prohibited firearm.
“When you don’t draw the police into this and you arm people, you turn them into militias because you don’t control what they do with these firearms,” he added.
The Force spokesman, however, said the police have been supporting the Benue State government in terms of implementing the law on prohibition of open-grazing in the state.
According to him, the police have a responsibility to support any law made at all levels of government, as well as the ones made by the leadership of any community towards keeping the peace in the society.
Moshood said, “Even when you look at the international law, it’s like picking a cutlass and cutting a footpath and everybody is compelled to pass the footpath; so if that is the norms of the people, we should enforce it for them.”